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How Remotely Analyzing Biofuel Increases Productivity

October 31, 2014

How Remotely Analyzing Biofuel Increases Productivity

Biofuels—or fuels derived from renewable, living organisms—have seen a huge increase in production due to their potential environmental and social benefits. From 2009 to 2010, worldwide biofuel production rose 17 percent. Blending biofuels with fossil fuels is now commonplace, and the International Energy Agency has a goal for biofuels to meet 25 percent of the world’s demand for transportation fuels by 2050. Because of this, new regulations to quantify the composition of fuel blends have come into being are now in place to ensure the fuel is safe for consumers.

"NIR methods allow different fuels properties to be analyzed easily and quickly, without lengthy sample preparation. We are assured of accurate and reproducible results to confirm product quality."

- Antonio Diaz, Laboratory Manager for CLH’s Central Testing Laboratory

What Are Biofuels and How Are They Manufactured

Biofuels come in two forms, bioethanol and biodiesel.

Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermentation, mostly from carbohydrates grown in sugary or starchy crops such as corn and sugarcane. Ethanol is commonly used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions.

Biodiesel is produced from oils or fats, and is commonly used in diesel-powered vehicles to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons.

By 2020, 10 percent of the energy used in UK road and rail transport must come from renewable sources. The steady increase of the amount of biofuel that can be blended with fossil fuel requires quality control to ensure the blend will not damage older engines.

New Regulations Mean New Problems

Moving fuel to areas where customers need it and confirming the varying fuel blend composition required has created a need for quality control checks across all storage facilities, regardless of their location. This has made it important to be able to perform analysis of fuels quickly and remotely.

These needs are what caused Compania Logistica de Hidrocarburos (CLH), the leading company in Spain for the storage and transportation of oil products, to seek out the ability to perform in-situ oil analysis at their storage facility. By performing analysis at their facilities, the company would improve its productivity by reducing reliance on their testing labs for sample analysis.

Selecting the Right Equipment for Quality Control

CLH decided to purchase more than 30 PerkinElmer Fourier transform-infrared spectrometers (FT-IR) to measure the exact composition of fuel blends in their fuel distribution network. One of the primary reasons CLH selected PerkinElmer was the unique "Absolute Virtual Instrument" (AVI) capability of the Spectrum systems.

Typically, setting up a calibration model for a method can take weeks, but AVI capability lets analysts develop one calibration model centrally and then transfer that model to any other instrument on the same network. Once the machines have the calibration model, an inter-laboratory comparison can confirm that every instrument is producing consistent results.

Getting Analysis Done in Minutes, Not Days, For Improved Productivity

Analysis at the point of delivery is important for biofuels, as the required composition of fossil to biofuel can vary from customer to customer. Before CLH installed instrumentation at all their facilities, there was a delay of more than half a day in receiving the results as samples were sent to testing laboratories.

Now, results are available in minutes.

"At CLH we understand the significance of maintaining product quality and its importance to our customers," says Antonio Diaz, Laboratory Manager for CLH’s Central Testing Laboratory in Madrid, Spain. "Installation of PerkinElmer’s FT-NIR instruments in all our storage facilities improved the operations in receiving, mixing and expediting fuel blends produced in-situ."

How Software Lets Everyone Perform Scientific Analysis

Previously, CLH required samples to be analyzed at labs by highly trained scientists. With AssureID software, CLH’s central laboratory can develop customized methods for each type of analysis and share the methods with all storage facilities. The central lab configures each step in the workflow, and then sends the methods out for operators in storage facilities to follow. The laboratory-based supervisor can then review the results database to sign and approve reports from storage facilities remotely.

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